Friday Harbor is the principal port of San Juan Island and the tourism epicenter of the beautiful and unspoiled San Juan archipelago, scattered across the strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and the forested northern coast of Washington State. On a clear day, the snowy peaks of the Cascades mountain range offer a dramatic backdrop to the wooded islands and islets.
The town, fronted by a busy yacht marina and ferry and floatplane dock, constantly buzzes with activity. As well as serving as the hub of the yachting community, it's a popular day trip by ferry from the mainland. Whale-watching is big business here, with most companies offering guaranteed sightings of orcas, who live in three resident pods around the islands. But Friday Harbor itself is a gorgeous little place, not to be overlooked.
You'll find bars and cafes facing the water, some with rooftop terraces, along with shops and galleries on First Street and Spring Street, which runs perpendicular to the shoreline. There are three decent galleries -- Ogle Fine Art, Arctic Raven and Friday Harbor Gallery -- immediately behind the ferry dock. The shops are fun, from the quirky Serendipity Used Bookstore on 'A' Street to Pelindaba Lavender, which sells anything and everything made of lavender grown on its organic farm in the southwest of the island. Don't miss the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Company on the waterfront, where you can choose between 72 flavors (and be warned, the scoops are enormous).